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Replacement of Central State Hospital delayed by cost, supply chain disruption

Temperatures in the low 30s by daybreak, with some spotty upper 20s away from town.

Supply chain disruptions and rising construction costs have delayed another major state construction project – construction of a new Central State Hospital to replace the sprawling and outdated state mental institution outside Petersburg in Dinwiddie County.

Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, chairman of the Virginia Behavioral Health Commission, announced on Tuesday that construction of the new complex won’t begin until next fall and be completed in late 2026, a year behind schedule.

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Deeds mentioned the delay during the commission meeting on Tuesday afternoon and later posted it on Twitter as “concerning news.”

“News that doesn’t make me happy,” he wrote.

The new hospital is the second major state project to face delays because of supply chain backups and rising costs.

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Last month, the Department of General Services announced that the General Assembly Building will not be ready in time for the General Assembly to meet there for its legislative session that begins in January, even as legislators packed up offices to move out of their temporary home in the Pocahontas Building to a new building next to Capitol Square at North 9th and East Broad streets.

“The times right now are a little unsettling,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, said on Tuesday.

The General Assembly included $450 million in the new $165 billion, two-year budget to cover potential cost overruns because of rising inflation and supply chain constraints in procuring construction materials and building equipment for projects.

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“We’re having to slow everything down because of the supply chain issues and cost overruns,” Knight said.

But Deeds said he still doesn’t understand the delays in the Central State project, which the state has been trying to replace since Gov. Terry McAuliffe was in office from 2014 to 2018, as well as under his successor, Gov. Ralph Northam.

He said he received a message from the Department of General Services that the detailed construction drawings for the project won’t be completed until the end of this year.

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The department confirmed on Tuesday that site work would not begin on the 500-acre campus until spring. Construction is expected to begin next fall and be completed in 2026, a year behind schedule.

“It’s very disappointing,” Deeds said.

Two years ago, as Central State observed its 150th anniversary, the new hospital was projected to cost $315 million, but now, he said, “I don’t know what the cost will be.”

Central State was founded in 1870 as the Central Lunatic Asylum for the Colored Insane, the first mental hospital for Black people in the country. It originally operated in a former Confederate hospital in what was then Henrico County, now East Richmond, but was moved to a former plantation in Dinwiddie in 1885.

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It was renamed Central State Hospital in 1894, but remained racially segregated until 1968. It operates the only maximum security forensic unit in the state for mental patients facing criminal charges.

“I am very frustrated about it,” said Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, a member of the behavioral health commission whose district includes two state mental hospitals in Staunton. “It needed to be done today.”

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